Introduction to Psychology - Part 1

Course Number: PSY 201A
Transcript Title: Intro to Psychology - Part 1
Created: September 1, 2012
Updated: April 15, 2019
Total Credits: 4
Lecture Hours: 40
Lecture / Lab Hours: 0
Lab Hours: 0
Satisfies Cultural Literacy requirement: Yes
Satisfies General Education requirement: Yes
Grading options: A-F (default), P-NP, audit
Repeats available for credit: 0


MTH 20 or equivalent placement test scores. Prerequisite/concurrent: WR 121.

Course Description

Surveys the major concepts, theoretical perspectives, empirical findings, and historical trends in scientific research, biological psychology, sensation and perception, learning theory, memory, language, cognition, consciousness, and human development. Provides an overview of popular trends, examines the overarching themes of heredity vs. environment, stability vs. change, and free will vs. determinism, and emphasizes the sociocultural approach which assumes that gender, culture, and ethnicity are essential to understanding behavior, thought, and emotion. Psychology 201A is the first term of a two-term sequence in introductory psychology. Prerequisites: MTH 20 or equivalent placement test scores. Prerequisite/concurrent: WR 121. Audit available.

Intended Outcomes

Upon successful completion students should be able to:

  1. Articulate how psychological research adheres to ethical and scientific principles, and communicate the difference between personal views and scientific evidence in understanding behavior.
  2. Delineate the credentials, skills, and experiences required for a career path in psychology and identify broad career opportunities associated with the various subfields of psychology at different educational levels.
  3. Recognize and respect human diversity while anticipating that psychological explanations may vary across populations and contexts, and exhibit sensitivity to feelings, emotions, motives, and attitudes regarding specific behavioral concerns.
  4. Analyze personal lifestyle and apply problem-solving techniques to situations while understanding the limitations of one’s psychological knowledge and skills, recognizing that ethically complex situations can develop in the application of psychological principles.
  5. Evaluate public and private assumptions concerning individual and group differences using a global and multifaceted sociocultural approach.

Alignment with Institutional Core Learning Outcomes

Major 1. Communicate effectively using appropriate reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. (Communication)


2. Creatively solve problems by using relevant methods of research, personal reflection, reasoning, and evaluation of information. (Critical thinking and Problem-Solving)

Not addressed

3. Extract, interpret, evaluate, communicate, and apply quantitative information and methods to solve problems, evaluate claims, and support decisions in their academic, professional and private lives. (Quantitative Literacy)


4. Use an understanding of cultural differences to constructively address issues that arise in the workplace and community. (Cultural Awareness)


5. Recognize the consequences of human activity upon our social and natural world. (Community and Environmental Responsibility)

To establish an intentional learning environment, Core Learning Outcomes (CLOs) require a clear definition of instructional strategies, evidence of recurrent instruction, and employment of several assessment modes.

Major Designation

  1. The outcome is addressed recurrently in the curriculum, regularly enough to establish a thorough understanding.
  2. Students can demonstrate and are assessed on a thorough understanding of the outcome.
    • The course includes at least one assignment that can be assessed by applying the appropriate CLO rubric.

Minor Designation

  1. The outcome is addressed adequately in the curriculum, establishing fundamental understanding.
  2. Students can demonstrate and are assessed on a fundamental understanding of the outcome.
    • The course includes at least one assignment that can be assessed by applying the appropriate CLO rubric.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

Students will demonstrate achievement of these outcomes by any of the following:

  1. Written assignments designed to promote integration of class material with personal reflection and experience.
  2. Written or oral assignments designed to stimulate critical thinking.
  3. Multiple choice, short answer, and essay questions that require integration, application, and critical examination of material covered in class.
  4. Active participation in class discussion.
  5. In-class participation in individual and group exercises, activities, or class presentations.
  6. Design and completion of research projects.
  7. Service learning activities.
  8. Participation in online discussions and/or completion of assignments through electronic media.

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

  • Describe what psychology is currently and how it differs from common sense.
  • Describe the historical development of the field of psychology, including the contributions of women and people of color. Recognize the impact of ideas about race, class and gender on early psychologists as well as modern psychologists.
  • Compare and contrast the major schools of psychology, their proponents and their ideas about what the field of psychology should study.
  • Distinguish between applied and basic psychology.
  • Compare and contrast the modern research areas in psychology as well as today’s clinical/applied specialties.
  • Recognize and describe the impact of cognitive psychology, evolutionary psychology and biopsychology on the field of psychology today.
  • Describe the emergence of evolutionary psychology as theoretical perspective in psychology. Define the basic premise of evolutionary psychology. Describe the relationship between evolutionary psychology and functionalism. Identify the criticisms of evolutionary psychology.
  • Identify the skills necessary to be a good critical thinker and apply these skills to specific examples.
  • Distinguish among empiricism and common sense.
  • Compare hypotheses and theories. Explain what makes a hypothesis testable and why that is important.
  • Describe how the scientific method works, the steps involved, and why it is important in psychology.
  • Compare and contrast the basic descriptive/correlational research methods in terms of their procedures and advantages/disadvantages.
  • Explain what makes a sample representative, and discuss the problem of sampling bias.
  • Describe the basic elements of an experiment and problems that can invalidate experimental results, such as lack of control, experimenter bias, subject bias, and placebo effects.
  • Compare the experimental method to descriptive correlational methods of research.
  • Design an original experiment that could be carried out in the real world with proper ethical standards.
  • Understand and calculate the basic descriptive statistics, including measures of central tendency such as the mode, median and mean, and measures of variability, including the range and standard deviation. Discuss correlation in relation to prediction and causation. Explain the meaning of statistical significance.
  • Recognize the limitations of generalizing the results of experimental and descriptive research.
  • Describe how human participants in research experiments are safeguarded by ethics. Discuss the use of deception in psychological research and the conditions that must be met when deception is used.
  • Explain why animals are used in research and how they are safeguarded by ethics.
  • Describe what a neuron is, what it looks like, what parts all neurons have and what functions these parts have. Describe how an action potential works and its important properties.
  • Identify common neurotransmitters and how they affect behaviors.
  • Describe the organizational structure of the human nervous system and the functions of each component.
  • Compare and contrast the hindbrain, midbrain, and forebrain. Describe the hindbrain structures and their functions. Describe the midbrain structures and their functions. Describe the forebrain structures and their functions including the cerebral cortex, limbic system, hypothalamus, and thalamus.
  • Compare hormones and neurotransmitters. Describe the endocrine system and how it is linked to the central nervous system. Explain how the major glands in the endocrine system affect behavior.
  • Describe basic genetic principles such as chromosomes, genes, DNA, dominant and recessive genes, and genetic relatedness. Differentiate genotype and phenotype.
  • Compare the following research methods used to investigate hereditary influence: family studies, twin studies, and adoption studies. Define heritability.
  • Describe Darwin’s principles of natural selection and fitness. Explain the importance of genetic variations.
  • Define learning and conditioning.
  • Compare and contrast classical conditioning, operant conditioning and observational (social) learning in terms of their proponents, major concepts and limitations.
  • Apply classical conditioning to personal experiences and identify the components of classical conditioning.
  • Apply operant conditioning to personal experiences and generate examples of positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, primary re-enforcers, secondary re-enforcers and punishment.
  • Describe and give examples of the schedules of reinforcement.
  • Recognize the strengths and limitations of punishment as an agent of behavior change.
  • Describe and apply the principles of observational learning.
  • Understand the role of different parts of the brain and different neurotransmitters in learning.
  • Explain biological constraints on learning and describe the evolutionary perspective on learning.
  • Identify and apply the perceptual and behavioral effects of basic principles of psychophysics, including thresholds, signal detection theory, sensory adaptation and overload, and selective attention.
  • Explain the process by which sensory input travels from the physical world to the brain, including sense receptors, sensory neurons, and the basic structures of the eye and ear.
  • Describe the most common principles of perceptual organization, including basic visual illusions, Gestalt principles, constancies, binocular and monocular cues, and apply these principles to real-life examples of perceptual errors.
  • Describe the physiological and psychological processes involved in the perception of pain.
  • Identify and discuss cultural and social influences on perception.
  • Distinguish between popular opinion and scientific evidence regarding subliminal perception and extra-sensory perception.
  • Understand the challenges involved in defining consciousness.
  • Discuss the impact of circadian rhythms on alertness and performance.
  • Describe the stages of sleep, the physiological, cognitive, and emotional benefits of sleep, along with common problems associated with sleep deprivation, and apply this information to one’s own sleep patterns and performance.
  • Describe the four most popular theories of dreaming, including supporting evidence for the theories where applicable.
  • Identify and explain the physiological and psychological components (including cultural expectations) of various altered states of consciousness, such as hypnosis, meditation, and out-of-body experiences.
  • Distinguish among the various classifications of psychoactive drugs, along with the physiological and psychological (including cultural) effects of each.
  • Understand the complex interaction of nature and nurture in human development.
  • Trace the progress of physical development through infancy into childhood and adolescence.
  • Describe the major theories and milestones in cognitive development (including language) from birth through adolescence.
  • Discuss attachment, gender identity, and moral reasoning as elements of social development.
  • Discuss the physiology and the psychology (including cultural components) of adolescence and aging.
  • Understand the role of life transitions in healthy development.
  • Understand the reconstructive nature of memory and its applications to real-life issues such as eyewitness testimony and false memory.
  • Identify and describe the various physiological processes and structures involved in memory.
  • Apply concepts in encoding, memory consolidation, and forgetting to everyday memory tasks (such as studying).
  • Discuss current evidence and arguments on both sides of the recovered memory controversy.
  • Describe and apply the basic psychological biases that can interfere with rational thought and sound decision-making.
  • Explain the major theories of language acquisition, the structure of language, and the major milestones in language development.
  • Discuss research on animal language, and connect the evolutionary significance of animal language to that of human language.